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Santa Barbara’s Public Works Director shares status of City projects

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Rebecca Bjork, Public Works Director for the City of Santa Barbara, said a handful of high priority projects already in the pipeline at the beginning of 2020 are moving ahead, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and fiscal woes.

That includes plans for a new police station, improving the city's main streets, a new design for De La Guerra Plaza, improvements to city parks as well as improving ADA access across town. Bjork also said plans to install a new elevator in the central Public Library are also moving forward.

NEW POLICE STATION/FARMER'S MARKET SITE: "Top of the list is a new police station building and that project is still moving forward very well," Bjork told reporter Beth Farnsworth. "We're in design and that's continuing. We will not be adding additional funding to it but we have enough money to keep that project very, very active right now, so it won't slow down."

Bjork added, "The commuter lot (at Cota Street) remains the preferred alternative for the environmental review (for the new police station). We are in the process of completing the environmental documents right now."

FARMERS MARKET UPDATE: The 0 blocks on Carrillo between Chapala and Anacapa, and adjoining State St. blocks, are under consideration for Saturday's Farmers Market (CREDIT: Google Maps)

"So far, we are still on course to continue with that and the Farmer's Market has identified their preferred site for re-location which I'm really excited about -- it's on Carrillo (the 0 blocks between Chapala and Anacapa and the adjoining State Street blocks) under the trees. It'll be beautiful and shady. We are looking to see that we can make that work so we're really excited on both counts."

Bjork also said that organizers of the Saturday Farmers Market would ultimately prefer to remain at the longtime Cota Street site, but are now looking at the benefits of relocating the popular event to Carrillo and State.

DE LA GUERRA PLAZA: "We had a really good meeting with our task force last Friday. They came up with a vision statement for how the plaza should be designed, very unanimous support for that vision statement. It gives our architects a clear message of how to go forward with design. So, yeah, this iconic plaza we're hoping to make it more iconic for the next several generations."

STREETS AND ROADWAYS: "Our investment on our streets and roadways is still going forward very actively. We are having to reduce funding slightly, but continuing to put a lot of investment in and I want to just call the community's attention to how much investment we've put in the last couple of years, probably $30 million dollars of money gone into our roadways already. So, just getting a huge step forward."

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA): "I'm really excited about some of the ADA accessibility projects that we are continuing to move forward with. For example, the library elevator at the central library, to make that more accessible for everybody in our community. And then smaller projects throughout the city including the installation of missing access ramps, as many as we can get to every year. I think we've installed over 100 last year and I would expect we're gonna install many more this year."

BUDGET: "For our planning purposes, we've already cut $4 million dollars out of last year's or the current year's, uh, capital budget by pausing some projects that were going forward. And, we're expecting to cut fiscal year '21s budget by $4 million dollars as well. So, that's out of the Measure C capital budget that was expected to be over $26 million dollars. So, you can see, we still are hoping to have a lot of work to continue, uh, we will be careful about actually committing those monies to see how funding comes in but at this point we're planning to go forward with a $4 million dollar reduction." 

DELAYED PROJECTS: When it comes to projects that will be nixed or delayed, Bjork said some projects that are in design stage will be put on hold rather than move into the construction phase. That includes a workspace improvement project for staff at the downtown library.

"That really, really needs improvement but we will hold that one until we have a better understanding of what the funding future looks like."

SB WILL LOOK DIFFERENT: "Well, I'm pleased to say we've been using the lessened use of our streets by the public to take advantage of the opportunity to take advantage to do a lot of work on our streets. As to what the Downtown's gonna look like, I don't know. There's some exciting ideas being talked about in the community right now that might make it more of a central place for our community, more of a community meeting place, more outdoor activities, so we're excited to see how those happen. We think that this opportunity really gives us a chance to test those out and see how they work for our community."

For more information about the City of Santa Barbara's Public Works Department, click here.

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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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